My Grilled Chicken Standby

by Marina Chotzinoff

Years ago my sister’s neighbor introduced me to Yoshida chicken. This was when I first became aware of Costco and the marvels that hid within. And this marvel was a giant tub of sticky sweet soy sauce that you boiled some chicken in, then threw on the grill. Unlike lots of other grilled chicken I had had that barely had time to marinate or were just dried out breasts, this had flavor throughout and the leftovers were wonderful.

Throughout the years I purchased many giant tubs of yoshida to simmer chicken, mix into mayo for a dip or sandwich spread, or glaze broiled salmon. I started getting more adventurous, adding chunks of ginger, onion, garlic, cilantro. Having long sworn off chicken breasts in favor of thighs, our preferred plan is at least an overnight marinade and a long, slow turn on the grill. But in a pinch, I will go back to the braise and grill method and am never disappointed. And, naturally, I have taken to making my own braising liquid though I’m not too cool for Mr. Yoshida and I thank him (and my sister’s neighbor) for this inspiration.

I have yet to pay attention to ratios, but essentially I mix a couple cups of soy, a good dose of mirin, sometimes a small splash of rice vinegar, a good sized nub of ginger, roughly chopped, several garlic cloves smashed, half an onion chopped, sometimes the green parts of a bunch of scallions, cilantro stems….whatever looks good. I add a cup or so of water, add the raw chicken thighs (or this time the thigh/leg combo that I cut apart) and simmer on low about an hour. I cool it all in the liquid, remove the chicken and put on a grill, strain and reduce the sauce and use it to baste.

You have to pay good attention to the grill because the soy and sugar can burn. I grill until some sticky, caramelized bits appear, then pile on a plate with chopped cilantro, green onion and sesame seeds. Great with a plate of rice, cucumbers and avocado and, of course, chili garlic sauce.

The next day for lunch, I shredded some of the chicken for a salad. I cut thin ribbons from a raw kabocha and gently cooked them in a bit of oil until they had softened and began to brown. I added them to the chicken and put a teaspoon of sesame oil and a glug of canola in the pan and added the leftover rice in an even layer and cranked the heat. When the rice began to toast a bit I threw in a handful of sliced almonds and a chopped up piece of bacon leftover from breakfast. Leftover bacon? Yes. I stirred the rice until it was crispy all over and threw it in with the chicken. I took a tablespoon each of the leftover braising liquid, lime juice and rice vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon chili garlic and drizzled it over the salad. I garnished with avocado, sesame seeds and cilantro. If we had not finished our jalapeno the night before, I would have sliced that as well.

A fabulously tasty and filling dish with the sweet but earthy squash playing off the smokey, caramelized chicken and crunchy, toasty rice all topped with fresh, green aromas and buttery avocado. Loved it.

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